A report published this month by ScotSID (Scottish Suicide Information Database) makes for very interesting reading. It specifically looked at deaths by suicide in Scotland between 2009-2015, the deceaseds’ contact with mental health services and more importantly, the psychiatric drugs that were prescribed to them beforehand. Interestingly, I remember (after Shane’s death) trying to find similar information in Ireland, only to be told ah sure, we couldn’t ask families such personal information. It just wouldn’t be right – and sure if the drugs were dangerous, no-one would prescribe them. You think? I’ll park the aul sarcasm there for now. However, contrary to the idea that psychiatric drugs are always safe, an article published this week in an Irish Newspaper told the story of 14-year-old Jake McGill Lynch who died following a prescription for fluoxetine (branded as Prozac). You can read the full story courtesy of the AntiDepAwares here. More information on the bold Stephanie (US and Irish interpretation of bold will suffice here) can be found in my previous blog.
It is important to note that in 2012, in a meeting with Kathleen Lynch (the then Minister for Mental Health), the serious dangers of psychiatric drugs were brought to the Irish Government’s attention. Notably, this was two years after Shane’s death and a full year before Jake McGill Lynch died. At the meeting, retired assistant state pathologist Dr Declan Gilsenan specifically asked for an investigation into all suicide verdicts to see what medications people were prescribed at the time of their deaths. He was concerned that SSRIs could be causing suicides – tragically for Jake, nothing was done.
Anyway, back to the Scottish report. The report notes that while psychiatric drugs are principally used to treat mental health conditions, they are also used for a number of other conditions – such as antidepressants for migraine, chronic pain, etc. It found that, prior to the deaths by suicide, the most common form of recorded contact with the health services was a prescription for a ‘mental health drug’ – 59% of those who died by suicide had been prescribed a psychiatric drug within the previous year, of which the majority (82%) was for an antidepressant. That is a truly scary statistic and one which disproves the widely held belief that ‘antidepressants save lives’. Indeed, it is argued that the opposite is true, that these drugs are causing far more harm than good and in fact, killing many unsuspecting consumers. Thus, the most recent study by Jakobsen et al concluded –
‘SSRIs significantly increase the risk of both serious and non-serious adverse events. The potential small beneficial effects seem to be outweighed by harmful effects.
While we could learn a lot from this new report, the findings are not unique. In fact, a decade beforehand, a report by Swedish journalist Janne Larsson found that of the 1126 Swedish people who had died by suicide in 2007, 64% had been prescribed a psychiatric drug(s) within the previous year. Clearly, Dr Gilsenan’s request for an Irish investigation is long overdue.
Occasionally, the dead can indeed speak.
The Scottish report can be viewed here.